Gifford Brothers Racing: A lifetime in the fast lane

By Andrea Ray | Jul 06, 2017
Courtesy of: Gifford Brothers Racing The previous late model car of Gifford Brothers Racing - Felicia.

Wareham — Decades ago, young brothers Robbie and Ricky Gifford sat inside a barbershop on a warm summer day. Both were in a sour mood. Their mother had required they get haircuts -- spoiling the pair's plans for fun.

As they waited, Ricky heard the sound of a motorcycle revving its engine.

Peeking his head out the window, he gestured to Robbie and said, "You have to see this!"

The boys were in awe. In an instant, a passion for motorcycles -- and later, race cars -- was born.

The Marion natives, and current Wareham residents, went on to race motorcycles in New Hampshire for many years.

When Ricky’s son, Chris, got old enough, he’d tag along to those races. Eventually, he told his father and uncle that he wanted to get involved, too.

But Chris wanted to race cars, not motorcycles.

Ricky told his son, "When you can beat me, you can race."

Said Robbie gleefully of the bet, "That was a big mistake."

To help Chris along, the brothers started Gifford Brothers Racing, located on Cranberry Highway in West Wareham. They’ve been racing cars for more than two decades along the East Coast, now with friend and crew chief Wayne Nunes of Dartmouth.

The levels of auto racing are somewhat tricky — the highest level is what is today called the Monster Cup. Those races are the ones you might catch on TV, broadcasting from Talladega Speedway. Then there is the Busch Series, the truck racing series, the ARCA (Automobile Racing Club of America) series, pro stocks, late models, and a host of lesser levels below that.

The Gifford brothers reached the late model series before Chris moved ahead, into the truck racing series. Chris now drives in the truck series in the southern United States, but he got his start driving the #5 late model car that his father affectionately nicknamed Felicia.

When Chris broke his collarbone several years ago, the team needed a new driver. The driver they found came with a crew chief — Nunes. Nunes had won seven championships around the New England region already.

From the first meeting, the group got along like a house on fire. Nunes is frequently at the shop helping Robbie and Ricky.

"We have more enthusiasm than we have knowledge," Ricky explained. "It's good to have someone around who can coach us a little."

Right now the team is fine tuning its newest purchase, a faster late model. (If you're wondering, Ricky has dubbed it Olivia.)

"Felicia had given us just about everything," Robbie said, "and we knew that if we wanted to get to the point where the car could win enough to pay for itself, we were going to need something better."

Buying that "something better" can run around $14,000. Racing fuel is $12 per gallon, meant to fill a 22-gallon tank. Racing tires are $550 for a set of four, with new tires needed for every race.

"It's hard to get out of it what you put in," Ricky explained, "but the real expense is in the manpower, in the hours spent working on the car."

He knows that race cars don't run on fuel; they run on friends. The Gifford brothers have been lucky with their friends.

"Local contractors, friends, and businesses have all given us a hand. It's not for the sponsorship, either," Robbie said, "but purely because they enjoy racing like we do. That's what they get out of it. It's a great community."

This year they've hit another stroke of luck. They approached the season without a driver secured. It turned out that one of Seekonk Speedway's leading drivers, Tom Scully Jr., was looking to race a late model car. When he heard that Ricky and Robbie had a car and no driver, he jumped at the chance to drive.

The brothers couldn't believe it. "We heard he wanted to race our car and we said, 'Yes! Do whatever he wants!'" Ricky said with a laugh. "We're honored to have him even consider us."

With Scully Jr. in the driver's seat, Nunes' keen eyes on the car, and Robbie and Ricky's unflagging work ethic, the team is hoping to have Olivia ready to race at Seekonk in another two weeks or so — her "Cinderella moment" according to Ricky.

"We can't wait," Ricky said. "We meet people in town, tell them to come by, and it doesn't matter if they've never seen a car race or if they're a huge fan already. They always have a great time."

To follow the Gifford Brothers Racing, visit the team’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Gifford-Brothers-Racing.

Ricky Gifford (far left), Wayne Nunes (middle, green shirt) and Robbie Gifford (far right), with friends at Seekonk Speedway. (Courtesy of: Gifford Brothers Racing)
Robbie and Ricky watch No. 5 race. (Courtesy of: Gifford Brothers Racing)
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